Cover image via Gospel Media Library.
A couple of months ago, I wrote about how the prophet Moroni worked through depression. His firsthand account, documented in the Book of Mormon, is a template for survivorship.
The prophet Alma, son of Alma, was also well acquainted with adversity and grief. Like Moroni, Alma recorded his emotional low points, tribulations, and patterns of healing in the Book of Mormon. A study of Alma’s trials shows the extent of his suffering.
- He experienced psychological abuse. He and his mission companion, Amulek, were brought out of prison “to the place of martyrdom, that they might witness the destruction of those who were consumed by fire” (Alma 14:9). Believing women and children, perhaps including Amulek’s wife and children, were “cast into the fire” (Alma 14:8). Can you imagine the sights, smells, and sounds, let alone the excruciating reality? The persecutors also burned personal records and scriptures. Insult to injury. (Destroying personal histories wiped away all tangible memories of the dead. Scripture could be replaced, but how in those days did you get new scriptures?)
- He endured verbal abuse. Two examples. The people of Ammonihah accused Alma of lying and reviling against the law and of believing “foolish traditions.” They said: “We are not of thy church…. Thou hast no power over us” (Alma 8:11-12). Another time, the prison guards said to Alma and Amulek: “If ye have such great power why do ye not deliver yourselves? … And thus they did mock them for many days” (Alma 14: 20, 22).
- He bore up under physical abuse. Alma and Amulek were “bound with strong cords,” smote upon their cheeks repeatedly, “spit on repeatedly,” “confined in prison,” stripped of their clothing, and denied food and water (Alma 14:21-22).
- He suffered through the worst battle in Nephite history. There was “a tremendous battle” (Alma 28:2). Casualties on both sides were so great that the dead were not counted. “Great mourning and lamentation [was] heard…. Yea, the cry of widows mourning for their husbands, and also of fathers mourning for their sons, and the daughter for the brother, yea, the brother for the father; and thus the cry of mourning was heard among all of them, mourning for their kindred who had been slain” (Alma 28:5).
- He lamented as false doctrine and priestcraft spread among the people. Nehor taught false doctrine and organized a church. He sought gain, praise, and popularity. Gideon “who was an instrument in the hands of God in delivering the people of Limhi out of bondage” (Alma 1:8) tried to admonish Nehor “with the words of God” (Alma 1:7). Nehor became angry and stabbed Gideon to death. As the first chief judge, Alma exercised the laws of the new government and sentenced Nehor to death.
- He defended the faith when an antichrist ridiculed all that was sacred. Korihor accused Alma of being “bound by a foolish and vain hope,” “having a frenzied mind,” being deranged, and leading the people into false hope in Jesus Christ. Korihor said: “I do not believe that there is a God; and I say also, that ye do not know that there is a God; and except ye show me a sign, I will not believe.” Alma answered: “Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God” (Alma 30:16, 44, 48)? When Korihor asked again, Alma declared: “According to my words; and I say, that in the name of God, ye shall be struck dumb, that ye shall no more have utterance” (Alma 30:50).
- He fought in hand-to-hand combat despite the fact that he was chief judge and high priest over the church. Amlici, a Nephite dissenter, led an insurrection to overthrow the government. The ensuing battles resulted in the deaths of 12, 532 Amlicites (renegade Nephites) and 6,562 Nephites. Being strengthened by the Lord, Alma “slew Amlici with the sword” (Alma 2:31).
- He learned his missionary son had been immoral. Alma’s son, Corianton, abandoned “the ministry and did go… after the harlot Isabel.” Alma said: This “was grievous unto me” (Alma 39:3).
- He discovered the Zoramites were in apostasy. Alma said that “his heart began to sicken” and he sorrowed greatly and when he found out that the Zoramites “were perverting the ways of the Lord… and bow[ing] down to dumb idols” (Alma 31:1).
These trials and more dotted Alma’s life. He survived with determination and dependence on God.
1. He prayed—
- He prayed, laboring much in the spirit, wrestling “with God in mighty prayer” (Alma 8:10).
- He spoke his feelings to God: “O Lord, my heart is exceedingly sorrowful” (Alma 31:2, 31, 36:15). “O Lord, wilt thou give me strength…. For I am infirm” (Alma 31:30).
- He prayed for strength, comfort, and patience (Alma 31:31), for power and wisdom (Alma 31:35), and for success” (Alma 31:32).
- He prayed for his companions by name: “O Lord, wilt thou also comfort “my fellow laborers who are with me—yea, Ammon, and Aaron, and Omner, and also Amulek and Zeezrom and also my two sons—yea, even all these wilt thou comfort, O Lord” (Alma 31:32).
- He prayed for his enemies: “Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren” (Alma 31:35).
2. He learned, treasured, and taught pure doctrine—
- He taught with questions that pierce the heart, cause introspection, and test gospel understanding. In Alma 5, there are forty question marks. The first question is: “Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers” (Alma 5:6)?
- He treasured the word of God. “There are many mysteries which are kept, that no one knoweth them save God himself. But I show unto you one thing which I have inquired diligently of God that I might know” (40:3).
- He also taught with symbolism. In Alma 32:28, he asked his listeners to “compare the word unto a seed.”
- He explained humankind’s greatest mystery in chapters 40 and 41, “concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection…” (Alma 40:11).
3. He remembered historic and personal miracles—
- “I remember what the Lord has done for me…. I remember his merciful arm which he extended towards me” (Alma 29:10).
- “I… remember that God is merciful unto all who believe on his name” (Alma 32:22).
- “I also remember the captivity of my fathers; for I surely do know that the Lord did deliver them out of bondage” “Alma 29:11).
- I remember “that our father, Lehi, was brought out of Jerusalem by the hand of God” (Alma 9:9).
4. He worked hard, suffered much, and relied on the mercies of God—
- “We have suffered every privation; yea, we have traveled from house to house, relying upon the mercies of the world—not upon the mercies of the world alone but upon the mercies of God” (Alma 26:28).
- “I have labored… with mine own hands for my support…. I have never received so much as even one senine for my labor… save it were in the judgment-seat; and then we have received only according to law for our time” (Alma 30:32-33).
5. He focused on missionary work—
- He both sent missionaries and went himself “to declare the word… among all the people in every city” (Alma 35:15).
- He believed teaching “the virtue of the word of God” was more efficacious in changing hearts than the sword (Alma 31:5).
6. He felt joy.
- He felt joy over an election (Alma 2:8).
- He experienced joy when he met the sons of Mosiah and heard of their missionary labors (Alma 17:2).
- He felt joy realizing he had been “an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance” (Alma 29:9).
- He felt joy in his own and others’ successes. “But I do not joy in my own success alone, but my joy is more full because of the success of my brethren” (Alma 29:14).
- He had faith that he would experience future joy. He said to his son, Shiblon, “I trust that I shall have great joy in you” (Alma 38:2, italics added).
You may be thinking, as I have, of your own trials compared to Alma’s. Mine are microscopic. But every life is unique in the degree of difficulty. It has been my experience that any tribulation can cause loneliness, fear, self-doubt, anxiety, and depression.
I have thought about how I can incorporate some of Alma’s principles of emotional wellbeing into my own life.
1. I can do what Alma did. I can spill out my heart in prayer, confessing my disappointments, fears, and infirmities.
2. I can do what Alma did. I can pray for and receive comfort, peace, power, wisdom, and success.
3. I can do what Alma did. I can pray for those near and dear to me and for my enemies.
4. I can do what Alma did. I can gather courage and expect miraculous rescues as happened in scripture, Church history, and my own life.
5. I can do what Alma did. I can watch for God’s hand in my life even when I am in the wilderness of making hard decisions, when dealing with people who have mal-intent, when I need to repent, and when suffering because of another’s poor choices.
6. I can do what Alma did. I can study, treasure, and teach the doctrine of Christ.
7. I can do what Alma did. I can work hard and do hard things.
8. I can do what Alma did. I can give my time and energy to missionary work and encourage others to plant the seed of faith.
9. I can do what Alma did. I can feel joy now and anticipate more joy in the future.
10. I can do what Alma admonished his son, Shiblon, to do: “Put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 38:5).